Design, Development, Theory

I Can’t Stop Thinking Big – I Was Brought Up To Believe

Todays’ world of technology has become an environment that rewards conformity.  Whether by design, or by fear we find ourselves trapped in a world where thinking outside the box is shunned.  No longer can we contemplate the notion of what is the “correct” way.  Today it is more like a pharmacy where we are the pharmacist simply doling out pre-determined solutions, for pre-diagnosed conditions.

The days of being an Apothecary for technology seem to be in our rearview mirror.  It’s as if we would tell Picasso please paint this scene, but use these colors, these brushes and this canvas.  If that was the case I doubt any of us would know of him.

So how did we end up in this dystopian “paint by numbers” form for solutions development?

It is easy to look back at the last 50+ years and understand how we got here.  It is mostly due to the current imbalance of Leadership vs Management.  Early in the evolution of technology Leader’s emerged, people whose “imagination” led us all on a wondrous journey.  As technology evolved Management realized not only was it a great tool, but it was greater weapon to be used on the competition, whether that competition was an external entity, or merely some political faction within their own organization.  

Like any weapon to be able to wield it, you have to be able to control it.  

To that end management has taken the reigns of technology and have manifested themselves as great visionaries, although they be false prophets.  They hide behind balance sheets and budgets, they treat technology as a servant, not a partner.  So, how do we distinguish one of these false prophets from a true leader? It is all in the spreadsheet.  

Look at your leader, do they present their vision based upon numbers, or are they that rarest of breeds that use their imagination and encourage their staff to do the same.  Now I understand if you have never seen a true leader it would be hard to recognize it, but think would Steve Jobs or Richard Branson want to have a dinner with your leader?

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.

– Steve Jobs

So how do we break free of this “dogma”?  It starts with the individual…

Technology has become theocratic in its belief system, where you must subscribe to this product or that product, you must design like this idea or that idea, etc…  Management calls this following “best practices”, but really they are the chains that enslave your imagination.  Now this does not imply that anarchy in technology is the correct solution either.  It all leads back to the balance of Leadership vs Management.  Simply put we must as individuals have the courage and strength to brave the path of imagination, while respecting the balance that management needs to impart on the process.

So now that we understand the depth of the challenge what can be done.

That’s been one of my mantras – focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.

– Steve Jobs

“I Can’t Stop Thinking Big” is a line from a book I read recently, but found it applies to not only to life, but also to the way in which we design and develop systems.  But the reality as afore mentioned is another line from the same book “I was Brought up to Believe”.  This is poignant that it reinforces the belief that is it better to conform, to follow in the footsteps of others, rather than chart your our own course.  It is a daunting proposition, to step outside the accepted norm and brave the world on your own terms.  But for those who are adventurous and want to take this step, the key is your mental approach.  You simply can’t decide that tomorrow your going to break away from the conformity you find yourself trapped in.

The best place to start an adventure is with a quiet, perfect life . . . and someone who realizes that it can’t possibly be enough.

– Neil Peart

The air is brisk and bristling with energy, or so it seems.  Taking that first step, maybe more of a leap,  off the conformity train is a good start, but without a plan the freedom will be short lived.  So before we take the next step lets stop and gather ourselves, check our faculties and prepare ourselves for the adventure ahead of us.

We all have an imagination, but for many it is a muscle that has not been really exercised in a long time.  We have spent years in learning institutions that teach us a certain prescribed way to view the world.  Now you find yourself outside that comfort bubble, but have faith if you have gotten this far, then your capable of retraining yourself to imagine once again.

Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school

– Einstein

With any grand adventure the destination is important, it is the grounding force that keeps you connected with turning imagination into an accomplishment.  Some grand adventures may be simple, but others may be best thought of as a collection of smaller adventures.  It is also good to put down some ground rules for yourself, timelines, budgets, etc.  These rules will help keep you focused on getting to your destination intact and in good spirits ready for your next journey.

The next part of this process is getting a feel for the ground you have to cover to reach your destination.  Much like reading a map you need to understand the terrain that lies in front of you.  You will also need a good understanding of the environmental challenges you will face.  All good adventures have a measure of calamity that will ensue.  The key is being prepared and never having a sense of panic when the calamity finds you, and yes it will find you.

Now that you understand where your going, and understand the measure of the challenge you are embarking upon it is time to step into the saddle and start your journey.  This is the stage where you have to control your imagination and the thrill of the moment.  Otherwise it will overwhelm you with a sense of invulnerability.  This is the moment of Passion, it is the genesis spark you feel when you braved the trials and set out on your own path of destiny.  But unchecked this Passion will become your own personal demon, it will give you a false sense of security, it will cause you to take routes whose risks far outweigh their rewards.  So beware traveler and always keep your eye on the horizon and in your rearview mirror, because calamity is always just on the edge of your dream.

Shadows on the road behind
Shadows on the road ahead
Nothing can stop you now

– Neil Peart